Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amore della mia vita- Porchetta

Oh my goodness. I am sorry It has taken so long to post about Porchetta Day- I have been absolutely wiped out from the festivities!

Porchetta... Porchetta... Porchetta

My day started at 5.a.m- Dad and I headed down to the grounds where the festival was being held. We needed to help the event hire guy setup the little tents. He had been there since 4.a.m. (lucky him.) Looking outside was VERY discouraging. There was a dust covering in the sky and the wind was howlling. I for one, would definitely preferred rain to wind because chances are, in this arid country, the rain would have blown over. Instead we had DUST and WIND to contend with. This was the biggest dust storm since 1947, I believe, and we copped the tail end of it. Great. Was God trying to tell us something?

We got our butts into gear and started getting everything organised. People were everywhere helping out. Apart from the very few paid workers, I think we probably had close to 50 volunteers helping out, all before 8 a.m. The number of volunteers on the day could have been up to 100. I was seriously impressed with their efforts. Almost a year of planning has gone into this event and it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that so many people were willing to sacrifice their time for the good of the community. All the profits (if any were made) went into the annual porchetta day fund to ensure the event continues on. Ohh... country towns are so cute!

Luckily the dust cleared off by about 11 a.m. and the crowds started to come. The day featured a string quartet, bocce, spaghetti eating competitions, photo competition, cooking demonstrations and most importantly... TRUCKLOADS OF GLORIOUS ITALIAN FOOD!

Special Mentions:

1) Porchetta Stand

The Porchetta stand was easily the busiest stand. Hoards of people wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We had two pigs on spits as show pieces, and the rest was cooked in commercial ovens. I think we made a mistake in having cibatta buns for the pork. We should have had soft bread rolls and I think that could have made the MASSIVE servings of pork more edible. The pork could have also been basted a little more but most reports were very good. Obviously I am overly critical! The porchetta looked spectacular and definitely attracted so much attention. I posted a recipe for baste a couple of days ago (HELP-proIT bloggers?? how do I link?) so check that out if you want to create your own fantastic, show stealing porchetta. It also helps to have some great quality pork and Gary Goscomb supplied us with exactly that. He is a local pork producer and the product quality was top notch.

2) Pastry/Pasticceria Papa Stand

Oh My GOD! Pasticceria Papa's cheesecake from Haberfield in Sydney is the SINGLE BEST PIECE OF CAKE I have EVER eaten. Words cannot do justice to this perfect treat, however I will try describe to you, the delightful flavour explosion I experienced. The cake is a cake of contradictions. Most times, I am not a fan of contradictions, but hell, I'm happy to adjust my moral compass for anything that tastes this good. The ricotta filling is creamy but light and fluffy. The base is perfectly cooked-crumbly and moist at the same time. The cake is rich, but not overly so and in hindsight I should have eaten/bought a whole cheesecake. It turns out I am not alone. The cheesecakes were the first thing to sell out, and the cannoli was next. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to taste the cannoli (greedy gutses- please bring me one!!) but if the cheesecake and the sales are anything to go by, I'm sure they are spectacular. Is this the best cheesecake in Australia? Can we have a competition that I judge? For those of you lucky enough to live in Sydney, you can visit Paticceria Papa anytime. I'm considering moving.

3)Bread Stand- As I worked on the bread stand for most of the afternoon, I can tell you a little about the bread. We bought the bread down from Haberfield Bakery and we had all sourdough Cibatta loaves. The bread was made from manildra flour, which is a local flour. The paninis for the porchetta also came from Haberfield. The bread was delicious and we had heaps of people buying about 6 loaves. This shows that the people just want good food. Cibatta, Cheesecake, Cannoli... Why doesn't the whole of Haberfield move to Gunnedah?!

4) The Little General Olive Oil- I had the pleasure of working on the stall next to Nadia, a quirky Italian girl, who was selling The Little General Olive Oil. The Little General Olive Oil made by her family company and she is very passionate and knowledgeable about olive oil. There were a couple of local olive growers that were putting Nadia through her paces but she resoundingly proved her expertise. I tried The Little General Olive oil and fell in love. The Little General Olive oil is so good, Nadia is happy to serve it to you in a little testing cup- true confidence! To add to their repertoire, they have won various prizes in Italy- the Concorso Oleario Internazionale Armonia. I loved it so much, I begged the cabin crew to let me bring it on the plane (not an easy feat for a 12 seater plane) You need to get yourself some- I'm not sure where they stock but the contact details for the Mancini family are on the website- http://www.thelittlegeneral.com.au/

5) The cheese stand was run by an ex- Gunnedah Italian and was also a hit. They stocked a variety of Italian Cheeses although I cannot tell you exactly what was sold because I (very sadly) did not get a check out the stall all day. The same goes for the bruschetta stand and the gelati stand. Luckily someone bought me a little taste of the lemon sorbet and it was really quite good.

6) Pasta making and Pasta eating... gee Gunnedahians just love their pasta! The pasta stall had to restock 3 or 4 times fully throughout the whole day. Some of the local Italian ladies prepared the pasta for the spaghetti eating competition which attracted crowds of people and was a hilarious and fun touch to the day.

7) Wood-fired pizza also had people lining up... for 45-60 mins at some times. To me, this was not really acceptable. Although everyone seemed to like the pizza, if you are at a festival, the last thing you want to do is stand around waiting for an hour to get a pizza. We outsourced the pizza making and next year I think we should find someone who has the capacity to cook a large volume of food quickly because it just was not in the spirit of the festival.

In general, the day was a massive hit. Despite the weather, conservative estimates suggest 1500 people visited on the day. For a first time event, we were really happy with those numbers. Obviously, it was a huge learning curve and so there are things we will change for next year and it should all be lots easier the second time around.

There is one main change i'm asking for.... Can someone replace me?! I need to go around and eat at EVERY stall, ALL day! Any volunteers? No... ok- well I will settle for a helper to bring bits of everything including wine in half hourly intervals. Hope to see you at the next Annual Porchetta Day!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Spanish Restaurant Ortiga due to open next month

Word on the street is that Bar Alto Chef, Pablo Tordesillas is set to move to a new Spanish restaurant called Ortiga which will replace Isis Brasserie.

Looking forward to some yummy Spanish food.

This month's Gourmet Traveller also says that Libertine owners will also open another Caxton Barracks venture: a 140 seat tapas bar called Peasant so hopefully we get some MoVida style food happening soon in Bris!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Porchetta Day Baste

Ok, Porchetta Day (http://www.porchetta.com.au/) is on in two days so all hands are required on deck. Dad and I spent the afternoon making baste for the Porchetta- YUMMY!

We are having two pigs on spits (porchetta) as show pieces and the rest of the pork will be rolled pork loin with basting inside and out - obviously still done porchetta style.

The recipe we used is a variation of the recipe used in Jared Ingersoll's cook book 'Danks Street Depot.' I'll include Jared's recipe below.

Having a food festival in a country town is a really cute affair because everyone gets involved basically because it is a big deal for the community. We visited the butcher tonight and helped him baste one of the many loins and it was great to see where all the meat was being stored. I'm sure the butcher was cursing me by the end because I kept asking (about a million) questions. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera.... i know .. i know ... rookie error... because the loin did look pretty damn good being sewn up after it had been basted. I WILL DEFINITELY NOT forget my camera on Porchetta Day so will have plenty of pics to show you the finished product.

Whilst I was there, I checked out the butcher's prices which were Oh-so-low compared to ridiculous 'trendy' city butchers. I think I audibly sighed wishing this butcher could be right near me. His meat is all top quality, so I just don't understand how there can be SUCH a massive difference (sometimes $30) in the price. Anyway- back to the pork.

In Jared's book, he has done used the baste for a slow roaster pork shoulder and this is the recipe I will provide, but you can use it on basically any cut of pork. Hope you love it as much as we do!! The best part is- you don't even have to cook it yourself. Head to Porchetta Day this weekend and it will all be done for you!

Good luck if you decide to try at home. Let me know of the results.

A couple of pics of our baste.

Slow-roasted pork shoulder

serves 8-10

Jared recommends popping in in the oven all day or at least from lunchtime. He also advises that it is best to cook the pork for the first time, on a day when you are home so you can monitor the cooking very closely. Once you understand how the pork works with your oven and the temperature etc, you will be able to walk away and leave it go.

2.7-3.25 kg whole pork shoulder (preferably one that has been allowed to hang for a day or so to allow the skin to dry out)

vegetable oil


2 tablespons fennel seeds

6 cloves of garlic, peeled

juice of 2 lemons

200ml extra virgin olive oil

(we found that you can vary these ingredients according to your tastes)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. To prepare the meat, pat it dry, then score the skin with a sharp knife, taking care not to cut into the flesh. Brush the pork with vegetable oil and rub a good amount of salt into the skin. Put the pork on a wire rack in a roasting tin that will be able to catch any juices. Cook in the oven until nicely coloured and the skin becomes crispy, this can take up to 1 hour.

Lightly toast the fennel seeds, then scoop them into a mortar and use the pestle to grind them with the chilli. Add the garlic and a little salt and keep grinding until it forms a paste. SLowly add your lemon juice and olive oil, mixing well.

Carefully remove the pork from the oven and reduce the temperature to 110 degrees celsius (225F.) Brush the paste all over the pork. Pour a little water into the roasting tin to prevent the pan from burning. Return your pork to the oven.

Check your pork from time to time, adding a little more water to the tin if you needed. You can tell when your pork is cooked when the meat starts to give from the bone when you push it with your finger- this will take between 5 and 6 hours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sizzle sizzle sizzle

I'm guessing by now you have all seen the red sky and dust galore. I'm pretty upset for two reasons...

1) The dust storm hit just as lunch approached so I had to brave the elements to hunt and gather


2) I am (supposed to be) flying to Gunnedah for Porchetta Day preparations this afternoon. The plane is very small - I think 12 seater- so I am quite apprehensive about getting into this little beauty with dust causing visibility to be about 3m... (Ok slight exaggeration- but seriously!)

One thing that did make me happy today - my lunch.

Sometimes I just want something simple and comforting. All the worrying about porchetta day made me crave some comfort food and guess what I came accross on my hunting mission in treacherous conditions? A SAUSAGE SIZZLE!! I couldn't resist and I know it is so un-gourmet and even a bit gross but sometimes there is nothing better than eating a sausage (gasp) on white bread (gasp again- splutter from the dust) with loads of onion and tomato sauce. To tell the truth... I had two!

I just wanted to remind everyone how great sausage sandwiches really can be. My message:next time you walk past a sausage sizzle- don't shun the sausage.

After all the sausage talk- back to pork. Hopefully, I make it to porchetta day prep in time! Looking at the sky does not look promising.

Do you have a comfort food? Does loving this sausage sandwich affect my credibility?! Do you sometimes like eating something you know is actually quite wrong, but is somehow, oh so right!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More okonomiyaki

It has been a whole day since reader El alerted me to the fact that you can get okonomiyaki from restaurant Edamame, which is close to where I work. Such is my love for okonomiyaki, that ever since reading her comment yesterday I have been itching to try it. I resisted the temptation to go to Edamame for dinner last night (only because I had a food blog date with Ally from Eat Drink Brisbane) and ran up to Edamame at lunchtime today.

I went in already knowing that I was going to order okonomiyaki, so didn't pay close attention to the other menu. I was presented with a number of options including-
okonmiyaki ($ 8.00)
with seafood (+$7)
NZ Mussels (+about $5.5)
Tempura Prawns (+$5??)
Grilled Chicken( +$4.80)

There were a few cheaper options but these were the only ones I considered (sorry!! weekday lunchtime = in a rush.) I decided that grilled chicken okonomiyaki was the way to go and headed to the counter to order. I waited... and waited.... and waited whilst a couple of the staff out the back periodically looked at me and then went promptly back to work. I was standing there for so long like a bumbling idiot, causing me to wonder whether it was table service or exactly what the protocol was in this odd little Japanese eatery.

Finally another girl appeared from out the back to take my order, only after walking straight past me to clear some other diners plates first.

I ordered and paid my $12.80 and then sat down to eat. Whilst my order was being prepared, I couldn't help but why the restaurant counter was so crowded with drink choices etc etc. It kind of added an extra cramped feeling to the already small restaurant.

My meal arrived pretty quickly, (there were only 2 other tables of diners) and I was shocked to

discover something that looked very little like the okonomiyaki I love so much and more like the (what i thought at the time) modanyaki i'm not so fond of.

The dish was layered with noodles on the bottom, chopped cabbage, a thin pancake, grilled chicken with sauce and japanese mayo with a little bit of seaweed on top. At first look- very intrigued, at first bite, very disappointed. The amount of chicken was definately not worth an extra $4.80. It was such a small amount I would expect it to be included in with the $8 flat rate for the pancake.

My dreams of a thick luscious pancake filled with crunchy cabbage and chicken were quickly dashed. The pancake was not entirely unpleasant, but very thin and half was burnt so that made me very depressed. The tiny amount of chicken tasted good, it was obviously marinated and was pretty tender- but did i mention the pityful serving??? Noodles took up most of the plate, and whilst they were fine, they were nothing special. The presentation of the pancake was more overcrowded and busy more than anything else. The sauce was as yummy as usual, so there was a good element to the dish.

I later discovered that Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is layered- usually with noodles and due to my ignorance I had previously believed that all pancakes were Osaka styled (containing all the ingredients.) I know now Osaka styled okonomiyaki is my fave (Japanese readers- can you help me out?? Am i correct on this one) Obviously I can't hold this against the restaurant but what I can hold against the restaurant is their poor service, overpriced additions and lacklustre pancake. The Ville area where Edamame is siuated caters to a student population, so I believe better value should be demanded. Even at a regular cafe I would be disappointed to pay $12.80 for a plate mostly made of noodles with a thin pancake and a small amount of chicken.

Another bad review?? Why do I always have to play the bad guy? Am I a little harsh? Have you had good experiences at Edamame? Do you prefer one style of okonomiyaki? Let me know.

Just to let you know.. on the way back from lunch I saw another sign advertising a new Japanese eatery so I am already optimistic about the outcome... Lunch Tomorrow perhaps?

'The Ville"
224 Hawken Drive
St Lucia QLD 4072
(07) 3876 0060

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Companion Out Soon!!!

Using seasonal produce is just so logical and important. Stephanie Alexander is a big advocate of seasonal produce and her latest book "Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Companion" is basically a garden to table guide of 73 different vegies, fruit and herbs. The motto for the book is dig, plant, water, grow, harvest, chop and cook. So simple yet such a really great way to live. By the looks of the promotional blurbs, the book also addresses space issues for those city dwellers like me!

I believe the book is being released on the 28th of September. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy and her Cooks Companion book is such a staple in Australian households, I am sure Kitchen Garden will be well worth the $125

Let me know what you think of Stephanie's new book when you grab a copy. Do you already use/love/ live by the cook's companion??

Blurb taken from penguinbooks.com

Have ever dreamed of picking fresh salad leaves for the evening meal, gathering vine-ripened tomatoes or pulling up your own sweet carrots, this is the book for you. Follow in the footsteps of one of Australia's best-loved cooks and food writers as she reveals the secrets of rewarding kitchen gardening. Be encouraged by detailed gardening notes that explain how adults and children alike can plant, grow and harvest 73 different vegetables, herbs and fruit, and try some of the 250 recipes that will transform your fresh produce into delicious meals. Whether you have a large plot in a suburban backyard or a few pots on a balcony, you will find everything you need to get started in this inspiring and eminently useful garden-to-table guide.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ruan Thai

After gaining inspiration from reading numerous food blogs, I decided it might be time to organise a Brisbane Bloggers dinner. Now, I know I am fairly new to the scene but thought it could be fun. I contacted Ally from Eat Drink Brisbane (http://www.eatdrinkbrisbane.com/) for her thoughts on the matter and we decided to meet up to plan a dinner for all the Brisbane bloggers.

Anyway, Ally and I had a lot to talk about (the Brisbane blogging scene etc) so we didn't get too far with planning the dinner. We are going to do some research from home and then send out an email inviting other Brisbane bloggers along. If you think you may be interested, let me know via comment or email and include your blog address and I will extend the invitation to you.

Back to the food....We decided to try Ruan Thai which is tucked away upstairs in Toowong. You would never know about it unless someone told you about it, which now, after eating there, I'm not sure is a bad thing. Sometimes little places tucked away turn out to be gems and others are more like fools gold- shiny enough on the outside... you know the rest..

The restaurant is upstairs and doesn't really exude ambiance, but as we concluded, it was pretty standard for a Thai restaurant. The menu is pretty extensive and includes most things you would find at your local Thai.

Ordering with Ally was very easy. It was nice to dine with someone else that was decisive and knows what she wants!! As I am so fussy, it is usually left up to me - but sometimes it is nice to let the control go! We chose an entree and two mains to share and ended up going with the Kao Tung Savoai- ($7.00Crispy rice crackers to dip into rich tamarind sauce with minced chicken,)the Yum Neua-($16.50Grilled and sliced beef tossed in our Thai chilli sauce and mint leaves,) and the Moo Kratiam Prigthai ($16.50Sliced pork cooked with garlic and pepper sauce.)

The service was ok, not outstanding and more like a family atmosphere but still very polite.

The food arrived quickly and in good succession but apart from that, nothing else about Ruan Thai really nailed it.

First was the entree with the rice crackers and chicken tamarind sauce. We ordered this because it sounded different and neither of us had tried anything like it before. The rice crackers were a bit weird. Hot little round cakes of rice and pretty nondescript. The chicken tamarind sauce was ok, but not outstanding. I am struggling to find descriptions for the meal because it was pretty bland.

Both the beef salad and the stir-fry garlic pepper pork arrived at the same time. The pork was ok, but only just. There was a few vegies served with it and I can see where they were trying to go with the garlic sauce... unfortunately it just lacked punch. The pork was also quite chewy.

The beef salad was a bit of a jumbled mess. The salad leaves weren't crisp and the dish was oversauced. There was some flavour but it was more heat than yummy thai spices. There was a bit of chilli in the salad despite requesting mild, but to be honest I am glad because otherwise the dish would have been totally blah.

It's a shame this cute little restaurant was disappointing because it is situated in a convenient area for the masses of students that live in Toowong. The prices were not extravagant but they also weren't really cheap and to be honest- I think they should have been. There are plenty of Thai restaurants in the area so I'm not too sure how Ruan survives when it is very ordinary and some of the other Thai restaurants close by are far superior.

Leaving yet another restaurant disappointed. If Ally didn't have a similar opinion- I think I would begin to question my judgement because as Ally suggested, many people have rated Ruan Thai quite highly.

Are my standards too impossibly high? Have you been to Ruan Thai- let me know your experiences. Got a good Thai restaurant near you??

Ruan Thai
1st Level
6 Sherwood Rd
Toowong QLD 4066
(07) 3870 8106

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Porchetta Day Reminder

Don't forget that porchetta day is coming up THIS WEEKEND!! I'm so excited I can barely concentrate. Porchetta is an old time favourite and I know it's going to be a fab day under the 50 year old olive trees.

There will be plenty of other yummy Italian treats including breads, pasta, woodfired pizza, cheese and loads of red.

Don't forget to bring along a picnic blanket to chill out under the trees.

If you are in or near North West NSW or even want to head to the country for the weekend- THIS WEEKEND IS THE PERFECT WEEKEND.

visit www.porchetta.com for more details
or email me and I can help you with anything you may need to know!

I hope to see you there but if you are not, I will be blogging with loads of pics to entice you to come next year!!

Ok.. I know I am crazy but I just LOVE porchetta but I am just so excited. ok... Apologies to whoever owns the song I butchered...

IIII I am dreaming of a porchetta sandwich…….. just like the ones I used to know.. where the rind crackles and the basting glistens…to the olive trees in the breeze (ok that doesn't fit...) May the days be merry and bright- with a lot of porchetta sandwiches in sight ah y ay ay ay

Feeling French: Part 1 - Cheese Sables

For some reason, I have been feeling very french lately. I went into the bookstore and unconsciously walked out with 3 french books - all food related, of course!!!

If you too are a bit of a francophile, I seriously recommend two of the books.

1. At my French Table- Jane Webster
2. Travelling and cooking in South-West France.

The other I haven't managed to get through yet but will update you when I do. Unfortunately it's turning out to be a bit of a dud.

At my French Table has a particularly lovely, foodie inspiring story as well as the recipes.
Anyway, they are both beautiful books filled with yummy recipes that I have been waiting to try out.

This weekend, we are at my boyfriend's family home in the country, so I love baking when I am there and it seemed the perfect opportunity try the Cheese Sables in Jane Webster's book.

The end result was a delish cheesey biscuit perfect for a savoury platter. Directions below.

Cheese Sables- makes 28 (for me it made about 20)
200g plain flour
200 g of grated cheese - either all cheddar or half cheddar/half parmesan (I stuck with cheddar and added probably another 50 g because I LOVE CHEESE but if you get experimental with your cheese types, let me know how it turns out.)
200g unsalted butter
large pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon because I like a bit of bite)
squeeze of lemon juice

Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse together to form a dough.

Divide dough in half, then roll into two long sausage shapes. Wrap in plastic film and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour. ( I got impatient and only left them for 1/2 an hour and they were fine- in fact, I had to cut the end bits off because they were a little bit too hard)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

On a lightly floured surface, cut dough into 2cm thick rounds. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Cheese sables will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

They ended up looking quite cute and being a good addition to a savoury platter we had last night.
Let me know how you go if you decide to try these little sables out. Have been feeling French lately? Got any good recipes to share?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vogue entertaining and travel produce awards

Got a favourite market vendor that you think deserves recognition? Nominate them for a Vogue entertaining and travel produce award. Details listed below.

2010 Vogue Entertaining + Travel Produce Awards

Since its launch in 2004, the prestigious Vogue Entertaining + Travel Produce Awards has been uncovering and celebrating Australia's finest producers and suppliers. The awards acknowledge those who are committed to quality and consistency in what they grow and create, and food lovers who promote small producers through restaurants, providores and markets. Now bigger than ever, the 2010 Vogue Entertaining + Travel Produce Awards are open for nominations.

Nominate your favourite Australian producer and win a prize worth over $5,000

Nominate your favourite producers for the 2010 Vogue Entertaining + Travel Produce Awards and win a two-night package for two, worth over $5,000, at luxury Queensland resort Qualia. For more information and to nominate, see categories below, simply email produce@vogueentertaining.com.au

VE+T Produce Awards 2010

Award categories

The regional award
Food heritage/ sustainability award
Best new product
Consistently excellent product
From the earth
From the dairy
From the paddock
From the sea
Producer of the year

Golden BBQ

I LOVE GOOD CHINESE FOOD but I have unable to find a Chinese restaurant that blows my mind in Brisbane (readers PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me out with this one- somewhere in Sunnybank.?) The being said I am always up for trying new Chinese restaurants in my quest to find the ultimate, so when my visiting Nan suggested she would like Chinese (she is a Chinese lover too- perhaps it is in my blood?) I grabbed my Brisbane's budget bites book (by Mei Yen Chua) to find a recommendation. I was a bit selfish with my choice as I have been feeling like soy chicken for a while now and when I saw it mentioned under Golden Door I just had to go.

We found the restaurant on Wickham Street among many other Chinese restaurants. It was, as Budget Bites had suggested, a very basic restaurant. I'm talking bare bones here. However, it did have a good but atmosphere, with the staff yelling in mandarin and it was packed with Asian diners (always a good sign at an Asian restaurant.)

We got our hands on the menu and the prices were very reasonable. We ordered the half BBQ duck (about $17 from memory), a half soy chicken (similar price), a large serving of BBQ pork (around $9), rice and steamed Asian greens with oyster sauce. We asked for the mean to be deboned at the cost of $2 per dish. For me, this charge is totally worth it as I spend so much time picking the meat from the bones.

We went to order drinks but realised there were none on the menu. Golden BBQ is unlicensed so if you are up for a long boozy dinner, this is not the place. In lieu of alcohol we ordered some iced tea and soft drink which came in the can or in the bottle- they do not serve with glasses or ice here.

Budget Bites suggested that Golden BBQ usually serve complimentary house soup, but ours was forgotten. The waitress was running about all over the place and in her haste, I'm sure completely slipped her mind.
First to arrive were the steamed Asian greens with oyster sauce and a little bit of oil. The greens were fresh but were a little over cooked, however the sauce and oil combined made a magnificent dressing and we quickly gobbled up every last bit of bok choy before the next dish could even arrive.

The service was super speedy and the duck was next to arrive (probably only 10 min after ordering.) The duck was yum. The flesh was tender and the skin was a little bit crunchy and fatty in a trademark duck style. The skin could have been a little crispier, but was still good and tasty. There was a generous serving of duck given the price.

Next came the soy chicken which is an old favourite of mine. The chicken was well cooked and the meat was very tender but the sauce and skin lacked the depth of flavour that should be apparent in soy chicken. Really and truly, the dish was a little bit bland which was very disappointing.

The undeniable star of the night was the BBQ pork. It was absolutely delicious and had a rich BBQ flavour with a tantalising sauce. Not one ounce of this sauce was wasted and my Main PIE LOVES anything BBQ pork related. He thought this dish was fab. It was definitely on par with some of the restaurants in Sydney that I frequent given any opportunity.
I even caught my Nan ladling the BBQ sauce pork over the chicken to give it some much needed flavour, which was a fabulous idea!

On the way out we spotted a pig hanging out the back. For some people, this would be a bit much to handle- but for me it was reassuring. Growing up in the country, with a cool room always filled with beasts, I found it comforting to know that they prepare their meat fresh on site.

The bill came in at just over $60 which I thought was very reasonable, given the quality and amount of food we ordered. This restaurant is cheap and cheerful, very loud and fast paced. I would not recommend eating at Golden BBQ if you are after a long, relaxing dinner- but for a quick Asian fix and some delicious BBQ pork be sure to pop in sometime.

Golden Door
157A Wickham Street
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
07 3852 5222
Golden Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

High Tea with the Queen

High Tea is something I ALWAYS want to do but never really get an opportunity to. So when I saw High Tea advertised at the Mariott I just had to book in and worry about convincing my boss to come along later. Thankfully my boss is great (eek-- is she reading this?!) and agreed to come straight away!!! Unfortunately due to work commitments (always getting in the way- sigh....) we couldn't make the Breast Cancer High Tea which was probably a good thing because the Lobby Lounge was packed with women teetering on impossibly high, high heels with fascinators and I certainly did not come prepared for that. So we booked in the day after for an early afternoon high tea.

Check out the photo above and you will see a High Tea stand decorated just beautifully. These were around the whole lobby lounge (maybe for the Breast Cancer High Tea?) and the smell of fresh lillies and sweet peas hits you. Along with the calming music and the sound of waterfalls this set the High Tea tone beautifully, so even before the food we were in a great high tea mood. See below for our view from the lobby lounge- quite serene. The only problem with the view was a little water dragon lizard, of which I am deathly afraid, but luckily it moved along very quickly!!!

We ordered the Moet Imperial High Tea for 2 @ $65.00. There were other cheaper options if you skip the champagne, but I never pass up an opportunity for some afternoon champers!! First our tea (or coffee if you prefer- but come on! It's High TEA!) arrived. I ordered Lemon tea. The staff show great attention to detail and the waiter came back to inform me that their lemon tea was infused with mint and ask if this was ok. Of course it was, but it was really nice that he checked. The tea arrived and was yum yum. I forgot to ask which brand they use which is a shame because it was really delish.

Next our tier arrived! It certainly looked very dainty and in standard high tea tier style, the top plate held the sweets, the middle plate held the sandwiches and the bottom plate housed scones with lashings of cream and three little pots of strawberry jam.

The sandwiches were turkey and cranberry, egg and lettuce. There were open half sandwiches which were smoked salmon with capers and red onion and plain cucumber. These were all yummy. My PIE doesn't like egg sandwiches so I had two and I was all the happier for it. They were all very delicately done, and no sandwich had an overpowering element like some egg sandwiches do. The cucumber open breads were really cute and fresh and the turkey and cranberry had just the right amount of all the ingredients. The bread was nice and fresh and even though sandwiches are fairly simple things, if they are done badly it sets a bad precedent for the rest of the meal. Definitely a good start.

Next we decided to tackle the scones which were just like Granny makes. Really well done and just the fresh and warm when we opened them- we slapped on loads of fresh cream and jam and they tasted a treat.

Showing great self control, we went for the sweets last. The sweets were very sweet and perhaps a bit too much focused on cream, but all the same they were good. first there were little white choc and coffee eclairs which were yum but a tad melted by the time we got to them. I'm not a real coffee lover (gasp!) but my pie really enjoyed the coffee burst with the white chocolate.

There were pastry cases filled with cream and strawberries, which are always a winner (although by this stage the cream was getting a little overwhelming) and lastly an unidentified piece of creamy?? slice?? which did have a yummy fresh raspberry on top which (yet another dollop of cream.) The sweets were delish but I just couldn't handle another ounce of cream!!!

All the food was good, but I have to say that it was the champagne that takes the cake. I am not a real fan of the Moet et Chandon non vintage, so was a little skeptical but I tasted the Moet Imperial Nectar served on ice with lime I realised that it was the PERFECT drink for this sweet high tea. The champagne has a certain fruitiness and sweetness but still cut through all the cream. "Nectar Impérial is a champagne to please the senses. The assemblage is built around the structure of the Pinot Noir : supple and smooth. Nectar Impérial is both a refined and sophisticated wine whose richness turns into sensuality." - Moet

It was so good I just wanted another glass....... Nope- time for back to work. But will definitely indulge in this another time. For cute and yummy high tea with great service, head to the Lobby Lounge at the Mariott Surfer's Paradise.

Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa - marriott.com
158 Ferny Avenue, Surfers Paradise QLD - (07)5592 980

Benihana- Teppenyaki take two.

Benihana is renowned for teppenyaki. Every time I mention teppenyaki, without a doubt someone mentions Benihana. It seems to have a cult following and people just RAVE about the place. Obviously, I have been planning to come for a while so was very happy that the conference provided the opportunity for me to finally do teppenyaki Gold Coast Benihana style.

N.B. I promised that I would try very hard not compare Benihana to Kabuki (my most recent teppenyaki experience) but that proved very difficult to do!!

Benihana is located on level 3 of the Surfer's Paradise Mariott Resort and Spa. The layout is pretty standard for teppenyaki- Back to Back grills with about 8 people perched around each grill.

From the moment you step into Benihana, it is obvious the staff are there to cater for your every need. They are super friendly and attentive. This surprisingly lasts through the whole service- not that I expected anything less from the Mariott.

The menu is pretty standard- you can pick from the teppenyaki menu (ranging from about $45-$75) or you can go with the group menu for 2 or 3. I decided on the Land 'n' Sea option (scallops and fillet steak) whilst my pies (partners in eating) had a group option. All options come with sweet onion soup, prawn appetiser, vegies and fried rice. The drinks menu is very tempting. If you are feeling traditional, there is a list of Saki's to choose from, If you are a wino - the wine list is quite good, and for the experimentalist there are sake cocktails and straight cocktails galore to get you started.

One of my pie's and I choose the Lychee sakitini- a yummy concoction of lychee paradiso, sake, cranberry and fresh lychee. We both adore the drink and my pie orders the same again, whilst I order another Lychee flavoured cocktail which included mint, passionfruit, pineapple and was every bit as fresh and delicious as the first cocktail.

The onion soup is served to us which is quite frankly, quite bland. I would have preferred miso soup and I guess this also colours my vision of the soup, although if the soup was good- I would have been more than happy.

A prawn appetiser was served and this was just a simple grilled prawn that you could dip into the sauce that was provided.

Next up are the vegies. We get served zucchini with onion. Once again, no flavour explosions here but that is more than ok, given the nature of the dish. It was nice to have some fresh greens to eat along with the meat/seafood bonanza.

By this stage, the friendly chef had already started showing off some of his skills and he was impressive. Catching objects in his hat etc etc certainly did provide entertainment - esp for those who have never been to teppenyaki. The chef also did a great job of entertaining one of the children on our table.

One great thing about Benihana and all teppenyaki is getting to see the food cooked in front of you. It really is fun even if it does emphasize my own VERY inadequate knife skills. Next up, were the scallops for me, and a bit of lobster stolen from one of my pies. As you can see below, the scallops were fat and juicy(just the way I like them) but they were very plain. That being said, great quality scallops don't need dressing and these scallops were great quality. They were well cooked in most cases and only one or two were a little chewy at the end, which is amazing, given the quantity of scallops the chef was cooking.

The lobster tail certainly looked impressive when served but I did not have a big enough taste to really comment.
The fried rice was pretty standard and I felt that I probably would have preferred steamed rice, even though the service staff insist the fried rice is great.

All in all, I cannot say that there was anything particularly bad or wrong with the food but I was disappointed. The service was fantastic but the food lacked serious flair. Of everything I tasted, nothing was overwhelmingly fantastic and I guess I did expect fantasy food given the location, price and rave reviews. That being said It would be unfair not to mention (for a second time) the staff and our chef. They were fantastic. The service at Benihana is at an extremely high standard. The one thing that probably did save the food was the quality of the seafood which was also high.

I did compare notes with a colleague who had been to Benihana the night before. He has a Japanese wife and lived in Japan for a number of years so obviously is used to traditional Japanese food and is also hard to please. His summation of Benihana is something I thought was quite harsh but on reflection I feel it is probably very close to the mark. He suggested that"the food is not particularly Japanese, it was definitely edible ( I think that is going a bit far!!!!!) and the experience is good."

I am beginning to think I am too hard to please. Tell me - Have you been to Benihana? Let me know your experiences!!

Mariott Mezze

Sorry I have been too busy to post within the last few days. I have been helping organise a conference at the Gold Coast. Busy..Busy..Busy!

Long before I attend conferences, I check out the venue and surrounding restaurants and plan where I am going to eat for three days or so. This time, we were lucky enough to be staying at the Surfer's Paradise Mariott Resort and Spa which houses renowned teppenyaki restaurant Benihana, so at least one of my dining dilemmas was already solved.

However, on the first night I was too busy to have a proper dinner and couldn't fit much more in after the welcome drinks and canapes so I ordered a mezze plate off the room service menu. Not ideal

After only 20 minutes after ordering, The Mezze plate (about $22 including room service charges) turned up. It was totally different from the menu description which listed cured meats etc, but I was pleasantly surprised with the plate below. It included (clockwise) a yummy oyster dressed in a tomatoey, kaffir lime dressing, beetroot with goat's cheese feta, zucchini with tomato and cheese filling, a scallop, a moneybag filled with chives, mushrooms and pork, a mushroom with tofu and feta topping along with a Japanese style piece of battered pork and seaweed.

The plate was truly delicious. The oyster and scallop were fresh and salty tasting and the kaffir lime dressing was a treat. Fresh and zingy! The mushroom with cheese was an interesting combo and the cheesey puff was soft and delicious. The zucchini and moneybag were also well done, but the star of the plate was the beetroot with goat's cheese feta. These two were the perfect accompaniment to the plate, and were fresh and delicious. The feta was creamy and although the combination was very simple, it really worked!! It was refreshing to see a mezze plate with a point of difference. Read soon for more on the rest of the week's food- but it was looking very promising from the standard of this meal!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Author Event: Matt Preston- Cravat-a-licious @ Ecco

Mary Ryan's bookshop in Brisbane often hosts author events. There was one that caught my food-loving eye.

In the wake of masterchef, Matt Preston has produced a new book- aptly named Cravat-a-licious. I haven't read it yet but am planning on grabbing a copy before I head to Ecco on October 7 for the event. Hope to see you there. The details are listed below and you can book through Mary Ryan's.

Author Event :
Matt Preston

6.30pm Wednesday October 7
Ecco Bristo + Bar 100 Boundary St Brisbane
$45 includes canapés and wine

Bookings essential on 07 3510 5000
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